Cambodia’s rich and powerful have long used automobiles as a means to demonstrate their wealth and influence, but Phnom Penh’s new owners of some of the fastest and most expensive cars in the world are a tad shy.
In a river of small motorbikes, towering SUVs, lumbering Hummers and the ubiquitous Toyota Camry, the recent appearance of Lamborghinis and Porsches can’t help but catch the eye, though their owners are seeking a profile far lower than that of their vehicles.
It’s not known how many high-performance sports cars are now owned in Phnom Penh, but at least three Lamborghinis, a couple of Ferraris and Porsche 911s and even an Aston Martin have been spotted around the city.
Sokleng, the 37-year-old owner of not one, but two 2008-model Porsche 911s, a Carrera GT and a Cayenne, said he spent about $400,000 on both vehicles, though he said it wasn’t something he liked to brag about or even discuss.
Letting it be widely known that he owns such extravagant cars could be a disadvantage in doing business, Sokleng said over the telephone.
“I’m really sorry. I don’t want to appear as being an equal to the tycoons,” said Sokleng.
First approached beside his Carrera GT while it was parked on a side street in Daun Penh district, Sokleng would only reveal his first name when interviewed.
Later by telephone he said, “We work hard to earn money, so we should spend it to fulfill our lives.”
“I drive the Carrera GT on weekends for entertainment in Phnom Penh,” he said, adding that he drives the Cayenne on weekdays.
Sokleng declined to describe his line of business.
One owner who was not too shy to discuss his supercar was Royal Group Vice President Kith Thieng, the owner of a black 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo.
For Kith Thieng, the supercar world is split between the Italians: Lamborghini and Ferrari.
“In the world there are two kinds of super sports cars. One is the Ferrari and another is the Lamborghini. But Lamborghini is the top,” he said. “Today, people consider cars as a kind of jewelry. Women like diamonds. It’s something that makes us happy,” he said.
Still, Kith Thieng said he generally chooses to drive his Lamborghini outside the city’s limits, where it can easily cruise at 200 kph and where it can’t get scraped so easily.
“I am afraid of scraping or damaging my car while on the street,” he said. “As we know, in Phnom Penh there are many motorbikes on the street, and [the drivers] do not know how expensive my car is.”
Also in the local Lamborghini owners’ club is Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew Hun To, who years ago bought one of the first Lamborghinis in Phnom Penh.
Contacted by telephone, Hun To said he rarely drives his supercar these days.
“I have it in my garage and haven’t driven it for a long time, so there is no need to interview me,” he said.
Khan Soveat, deputy managing editor of the monthly Khmer-language car publication Automobile Magazine, said reporters at his periodical also rarely have an opportunity to interview Cambodian supercar owners.
“It’s weird,” Khan Soveat said, adding that in other countries supercar ownership is no secret.
“[The owners in Cambodia] are hesitant, I assume because of security or the threat of kidnapping,” he said.
But there might also be questions of where a person’s wealth arises from if too many people learn of their superexpensive wheels.
So, for now, the owners prefer to share their supercar secrets with friends, Khan Soveat said.
“They just want to show their fancy cars among rich society,” he said.